IST student entrepreneur-in-residence creates social connections through new app

IST students Tyler Suehr and Kenny Dundorf with recently Liberal Arts graduate Andrew Simpson at Happy Valley Launchbox. Credit: Erin Cassidy Hendrick / Penn StateCreative Commons

Editor's note: This story is informational in nature and should not be considered an endorsement of any product or application.

At a recent networking reception at Penn State, Kenny Dundorf, the 2016 recipient of the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship, was approached by Tyler Suehr. Suehr didn’t know anyone at the event, so he just struck up a conversation about a passion of his.

“Tyler just came up to me and started talking about apps,” Dundorf said. “It was serendipity; he didn’t even know who I was.” As luck would have it, Dundorf, a senior in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), is the co-founder of a smartphone application called “Someonew,” a digital solution for creating spontaneous social connections that was recently released on Google Play and the iTunes store.

Thanks to their chance meeting, Suehr, a junior in the College of IST, is now the Android developer for “Someonew.” How they met captures the app’s vision — deliberately connecting people with mutual interests that otherwise may occur only by chance. After registering with the app through a personal Facebook profile, a user chooses up to five of their top interests. Once their profile is complete, the next time they are within 30 meters of another user with common interests, they both get a notification pushed through their smartphone.

Dundorf and co-founder, Andrew Simpson, a 2016 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, see the app as a new way to forge friendships. “The two things we had in common were the desire to connect people and push them out of their comfort zone to grow,” Dundorf said. “Andrew came up with the idea one night to create an app that connects people in a new way.”

Unlike many other mobile applications, users can’t see a picture or name of their match before accepting or rejecting it. “We’re trying to move away from the surface-level, Tinder model. We wanted something with much more depth,” Dundorf explained. Creating these more meaningful connections is important to Dundorf, as he was a selective mute until he was 12 years old.

“I rarely talked, and my brother often times did the talking for me,” he explained. “But when I was around middle school or high school, I became interested in business and entrepreneurship and saw how important it was to communicate effectively.”

Though he originally planned to double major in business and engineering, it was that realization that brought him to the College of IST.

“I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to start my own business, so I wanted to combine the technical experience of engineering with the great business program we have at Penn State," he said. "I was torn between the two colleges until I found IST. In a sense, IST is the best of both worlds. It gave me that business aspect and working with teams and pairing it with technical skills.”

Dundorf, Simpson, and a team of four staff members and two interns currently work out of Happy Valley Launchbox, a no-cost start-up accelerator for the Penn State and State College community.

In addition to working with Happy Valley Launchbox, the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship he received from IST paved the way for his startup. By receiving a $10,000 scholarship and six credits, he earned the financial support and academic flexibility to launch “Someonew.” Dundorf said, “I just have a tremendous amount of support now to start my business. I’m able to learn through my coursework and pair that with something hands-on that I’m exceptionally passionate about.” Simpson agreed and said, “It doesn’t really feel like work because I love what we’re doing.”

In creating “Someonew,” Dundorf says it was more than just starting his own business. “You pass by thousands of people every day at Penn State. But you can’t tell if you’re passing by your future best friend, business partner, or even a spouse. So our app is about making sure you’re not missing those connections.”

Last Updated September 04, 2020